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How far Pakistan has succeeded to counter India through second strike capability?



South Asia has long remained a nuclear flash point. China, India and Pakistan, all three armed nuclear states, craft a triangular dilemma. Nevertheless, the modernization and growth of Chinese strategic and dissuasive powers is thoroughly intended to combat the predominance of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. India’s strategic and deterrence development of its forces is focused on both China and Pakistan. Pakistan then reacts to India, accordingly. As India perceives that it is largely confronted by two rivals, China at its north and Pakistan at its west. The development of strategic and deterrent Indian forces and their deployed defenses in South Asia might create imperative strategic worries. The effectiveness of Pakistan’s second strike capability to deter India could not be entirely explained by one single factor. In pursuit of the strategic equilibrium not parity between the two adversaries, Pakistan has effectively taken counter-measures to deter its nuclear-armed rival state India in the face of full spectrum deterrence, which is part of a credible minimum deterrence in itself, that is, to bridge gaps and take necessary action where necessary. Nevertheless, such measures may not serve the purpose in the long term, as India is rapidly developing and modernizing its conventional and strategic dissuasive forces with the cooperation of global powers that provide India with a comparative advantage by acquiring cutting-edge technology. India’s commitments undermine the credibility of Pakistan’s strategic forces enormously, thus compelling Pakistan to take necessary counter-measures to prevent any erosions in the stability of deterrence.

Concept of Deterrence

Deterrence theory acquired its eminence in the Cold War period as to the use of both the Soviet Union and the United States nuclear weapons. Considering the nuclear weapons’ intense destructive force, it had a specific connotation that even an inferior nuclear power could discourage the superior one by possessing small numbers of nuclear weapons. Deterrence theory acquired its eminence in the Cold War period as to the use of both the Soviet Union and the United States nuclear weapons. Considering the nuclear weapons’ intense destructive force, it had a specific connotation that even an inferior nuclear power could discourage the superior one by possessing limited numbers of nuclear weapons. However, their credibility was also crucially important. A credible nuclear deterrent must be maintained and prepared at all times, but never used yet. Deterrence could be defined in its broader terms as a strategy intended to dissuade an adversary and rigorously prevent it from taking an inacceptable action that would have unacceptable consequences. In certain words, to intimidate an opponent by the threat of using force to deter or suppress its other actions, be they offensive or defensive, else inacceptable harm would be inflicted.

Pakistan’s Second Strike Capability: A crucial measure for strategic and Deterrence stability in South Asia

The stability of South Asia’s deterrence has always been destabilized and greatly impacted by India’s ambiguous policies and doctrines, be it a conventional doctrine of war such as the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) and/or No-First-Use (NFU) nuclear weapons policies or Massive Retaliation against any counter-force strike.India has been pursuing its active nuclear and ballistic missile programs along with its defensive measure, namely the two tiered defense shield, Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) capable of defying high-altitude threats and Advanced Air Defense (AAD) capable of refuting low-altitude threats. It is also renewing and expanding its conventional capabilities. Both of these assertive steps have in turn threatened the South Asian region’s strategic stability and balance. For the survival of a nuclear-armed state vis-à – vis a larger adversary, a responsible nuclear-weapon state like Pakistan may have no choice but to acquire a credible second strike capability to combat and effectively deter an aggressive adversary in order to maintain the stability of deterrence in the South Asian region. That being said, it would rely substantially more on its nuclear deterrence forces than on its counterpart. Keeping in mind the realistic minimum strategy of deterrence, Pakistan effectively deterred India without being economically pulled into a vicious cycle of arms race in fear of exhaustion. Deterrence by full spectrum does not necessarily apply to the greater numbers, but rather to fill the deterrence gaps created by the development of India’s conventional and nuclear powers, as Pakistan states. Deterrence by full spectrum does not necessarily apply to the greater numbers, but rather to fill the deterrence gaps created by the development of India’s conventional and nuclear powers, as Pakistan states. Pakistan’s development of marine nuclear power was inevitable, especially with regard to Indian Naval nuclear capability and BMD systems in general. Pakistan ‘s final nuclear triad leg was completed on January 9, 2017 after conducting its first ever successful test of a 450 km long Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM), named Babur-3. Babur-3 SLCM is a modified and sea-based variant of the Babur-2 Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) which was successfully tested in December 2016.Pakistan’s Babur-3 incorporates state-of-the-art technologies that provide state-of-the-art navigation and guidance features, appropriately supported by Global Navigation, Sight and Terrain Matching Systems. It is also assimilated with firm stealth, sea skimming and terrain hugging capabilities and can be loaded with different types of payloads to deliver accurately at allocated location. This particular Babur-3 test snapped a vital gap. This was a critical step to ensure a credible second strike capability and to restore the strategic balance in the region drastically disturbed by the Indian test of a nuclear capable K-4 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) ranging from 3000 to 3500 km from its nuclear powered Arihant Class I submarine in March, 2016. Despite this, India’s second strike capability had already been assured with a range of 750 km through its K-15 Sagarika SLBM.

The Indian pursuit for BMD system and its strategic implications

As a shield and a sword, the Indian BMD system has a vibrant rationale: a shield to defend against future attacks, and a sword to strike back. Considering the prestige of nuclear deterrence in South Asia, it has enormous strategic implications for regional stability, forcing Pakistan to an extreme edge to develop and establish effective countermeasures for the overall deployed defenses. The Indian BMD shield would have many strategic implications both for China and for Pakistan. In the short and long term perspectives of India’s ambitious BMD system, China may be concerned. One of India’s BMD shield’s vital objectives is generally to blunt Pakistan’s declared nuclear first-use option. This in turn would hustle up a new arms race between the region’s two rival nuclear states. India’s deployed BMD system significantly reinforces Pakistan’s credibility in terms of nuclear deterrence.

MIRVing (Ababeel)

The Multiple Independently Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs) could effectively undermine the credibility of India’s deployed security shields. Indeed, the U.S. developed the MIRV technology to combat ballistic missile defense shields deployed by the Soviet Union (Russia) during the Cold War period. No matter how sophisticated the deployed defenses of the adversary are, increased warheads on a MIRV could effectively improve the missile’s credibility in defeating those deployed shields. MIRVing may be one of the powerful measures against a missile shield in South Asia, be it the high altitude or low altitude. In addition to the capability of both land-based and sea-based cruise missiles, Pakistan has also developed a ballistic missile called Ababeel with a range of 2200 km that was named MIRV to defeat the Indian BMD system. Nonetheless, Pakistan may have other choices for turning its ballistic missiles into MIRV technology, with the leading candidates Shaheen-II and Shaheen-III considering the aptitude of payloads. In addition to MIRVing, Pakistan may build a lot more sophisticated systems for defeating the opponent’s deployed defenses such as decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and warheads with very low infrared signature intensity. Such technical systems may directly or indirectly attack the sensor systems of adversary’s defenses. For example, China could interfere with U.S. radars and infrared sensors in the worst case scenario after launching an outer space nuclear weapon.


Pakistan has always exercised a proactive strategic restraint in terms of the South Asian region’s strategic stability, without compromising national security. Instead, Indian aggressive policies and actions with wider regional and global military objectives have repeatedly affected the strategic stability. Nonetheless, increasing conventional and nuclear offensives in India will have a negative impact, and will continue to threaten the region’s balance and strategic deterrence. Keeping in mind that Pakistan must also establish other means for its defense and survival to ensure that the minimum measures are effective without falling into a parity of weapons (i.e. weapon to weapon).Some Pakistani scholars and analysts believe that Pakistan is not yet fully assured of its vulnerability i.e. the acquisition of second strike capability. Pakistani submarines are powered by diesel-electric propulsion engines which make them noisy and detectable and they are also not deep shallow sea submarines with small submerging displacement (2.083 tons).While these submarines are not nuclear powered yet they could easily be found and preempted by the advanced technology of the opponent and it is still in the early stages to be fully developed and mature nevertheless. Despite the assured second strike capability, Pakistan needs to develop nuclear powered submarines with long-range SLCMs mounted on them. The SLCM’s increased ranges above from 450 km will provide an extra layer of protection, which in effect would provide an advantage to be protected from any risk to be pre-empted in enemy water. Such long-range SLCMs could be converted into MIRVs in the same way as their ground variants i.e. for the enhancement and credibility of assured second strike capability like Ababeel. Pakistan has always tried to resolve all the major embedded issues and has rationally opted for conflict avoidance because its traditional and nuclear doctrines are defensive in nature. A balanced and firm deterrence relationship between the two antagonists is completely imperative for a long lasting peace and stability of South Asia.

Fatima Arif pursuing bachelors of Strategic and nuclear studies from National Defence University, Islamabad.

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India – The US Promote National Defense – Security Cooperation



US and Indian foreign ministers and defense ministers at a press conference after 2+2 Dialogue on 27/10 (Source: IANS)

In recent years, the India-US bilateral relationship has been more closely bonded, especially defense-security cooperation in various fields including nuclear technology, maritime defense and security, anti-terrorism in the region and in the world … has been continuously promoted, contributing to the development of an intensive bilateral relationship. This results from the demand for security strategy, economic, security and political interests of the two parties. The United States wants India to become its ally in the Indo-Pacific region, counterbalancing China’s growing influence, ensuring U.S. maritime security interests and a huge commercial arm market for the US. To India: a good relationship with the US will help India highten its position in the region; India also wants to rely on US power to increase its military strength, to watch out China and create pressure on Pakistan. In addition, India’s comprehensive diplomacy and the US’s regional strategy carried out simultaneously without overlapping, is conducive to strengthening the bilateral security cooperation for both countries.

It is evitable that in recent years, defense-security cooperation between India and the US has made remarkable progresses. After removing the Sanctions on India for nuclear testing in May 2018, the US and India announced the Joint Declaration on Civil Energy Cooperation between the two countries. Accordingly, the US will provide nuclear fuel and technology support for India to develop civil nuclear energy. This has opened the door for India to develop their nuclear weapons and improve military strength. The two countries also cooperate in many defense activities including ballistic missile defense, joint military training, expanding arms sales, strengthening military staff exchanges and intelligence, as well as loosening two-way technology exports.

To be specific: In January 1995, the two countries signed the “US-India Defense Relations Agreement”, stipulating that in addition to conducting cooperation on research and production of military weapons, the two countries also conduct exchanges between military and non-military personnel. In May 2001, the Indian government announced its support for the US to develop a ballistic missile defense system, and proposed to purchase the “Patriot 1 (PAC-3)” air defense missile system. In March 2005, during the Conference on Cooperation in Ballistic Missile Defense, the US, India and Japan agreed to set up a joint working group, to implement close cooperation on ballistic missile defense. In June 2005, the United States and India signed a 10-year military cooperation agreement, which not only required increased exchanges between the two countries’ armies, but also proposed to strengthen military cooperation regarding weapons production, and trading as well as ballistic missile defense. In July 2009, the two countries signed a “Comprehensive customer surveillance treaty” on defense, the US sold advanced defense technology to India. This treaty allowed India to obtain a “permission card” to buy the US’s advanced weaponry. In addition, the two countries also cooperate in counter-terrorism in the region and around the world, maritime security, and joint military exercises …

One of the activities promoting bilateral relations between India and the US was the “2 + 2 Dialogue” taking place on October 27, 2020 in New Delhi. Within the framework of this dialogue, India and the United States had shared exchanges of a free and open Indo-Pacific vision, embracing peace and prosperity, a rules-based order with  the central role of ASEAN, resolving disputes, ensuring the economic and security interests of all related parties with legitimate interests in this region … The focus on defense-security cooperation in this “2+2 Dialogue” is the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). The agreement allowed India to access accurate data, topographic images, maps, maritime and aviation data and satellite data on a real-time basis from US military satellites. Thereby, this will assist the provision of better accuracy for such weapons as cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones of India, and support the rescue operations during natural disasters and security strategy. The BECA is one of the four basic agreements a country needs to sign to become a major defense partner of the US. The other three agreements that India had previously signed with the United States are the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA),  the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and theCommunications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) . These are “cornerstone” agreements allowing the armies of the two countries to fight together in the event of a conflict. Accelerating the signing of the BECA was just one of various ways India reacted to China threats, especially after the border clashes in Doklam (2017) and Ladakh (5/2020-now). India, the US, Japan and Australia were more active in the Quartet Meeting on October 6 in Tokyo. India also invited Australia to join the Malabar naval exercises with the US and Japan in November.

The signing of BECA was a further institutionalization of the Indo-US strategic relationship to promote the two countries’ intensive cooperate on strategy and military, without pressure to become an official ally yet have benefits. Washington received interests in selling weapons to New Delhi, especially when conflict starts. New Delhi has attached more importance to US military equipment because of its transparent pricing, simple operation and maintenance, thereby reducing reliance on Russia for weapons. Currently, the total value of Indian weapons purchased from the US is more than 15 billion USD and is expected to double in the coming time. The US-India military cooperation, therefore, will be closer in the future.

Also at this dialogue, the two countries agreed to cooperate in dealing with the Covid pandemic, considering this a priority for bilateral cooperation in this period. Accordingly, the US and India will cooperate in RDto produce a series of vaccines, to expand access to vaccines, and ensure high-quality, safe, effective and affordable medical treatment between the two countries and on a global scale.

Currently, India-US defense-security cooperation is at its heyday in the history and is likely to develop further. This relationship has profound effects on the regional security environment, especially direct effects on China. As military forces grow, India will probably implement their military strategy “taking the Indian Ocean in the South, expanding power to the East Sea in the East, attacking Pakistan in the West, watching out for China in the North”, plus nuclear deterrence. This will worsen the fierce arms race in such regions as the South Asia and the Indian Ocean, leading to an imbalance of forces and add up a number of unstability factors in these regions.

In short, India-US defense-security cooperation is making remarkable progresses and has created impact on regional security, especially China and other countries with common interests in this region, including Vietnam. Therefore, the China-American-Indian triangle relationship is currently in an unstable state. In this scenario, it is suggested that countries actively identify issues relating to the this three military powers relationship and devise appropriate diplomatic strategies, balancing bilateral relations with major powers with disagreements to ensure national security and stability in the region.

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India-Pakistan LOC peace



India and Pakistan have both announced to “strictly observe” the truce along the Line of Control and all other sectors “in the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders”. Such an announcement could not have emerged without Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s imprimatur.  A hunch is that the move is an upshot of a nudge from the US president. This impression is fortified by several events that are accentuated by India-Pakistan entente (so called surgical strikes, 5000 ceasefire violations, hype about 2008 Mumbai attack and the one at Pathankot  airbase, so on). From Pakistan’s angle, India believed in might is right. And while it was open to compromises with China, it displayed a fist to Pakistan.

Need for a dialogue

In the past, peace at the LOC proved ephemeral as it was not backed up by sufficient follow-up. A dialogue is needed for the hour. It is a good omen that Pakistan is open to talks despite chagrin at abolition of the occupied state’s statehood.

Misconception about the sanctity of the India-Pakistan LOC vis-a-vis the Sino-Indian LAC

A common misperception is that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is more sacrosanct than the LoC. For instance, India’s prestigious Indian Express explained: ‘The LoC emerged from the 1948 ceasefire line negotiated by the UN after the Kashmir war. It was designated as the LoC in 1972, following the Simla Agreement. It is delineated on a map signed by Director General Military Operations of both armies and has the international sanctity of a legal agreement. The LAC, in contrast, is only a concept –it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map nor demarcated on the ground’.

To understand Sino-Indian differences, one needs to peek into the Indian mind through books such as Shivshankar Menon’s Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, Shyam Saran’s How India Sees the World, and A G Noorani’s India-China Boundary Problem 1846-1947.

The afore-quoted newspaper poses the question: “What was India’s response to China’s designation of the LAC?” It then explains India rejected the concept of LAC in both 1959 and 1962. Even during the war, Nehru was unequivocal: “There is no sense or meaning in the Chinese offer to withdraw twenty kilometres from what they call ‘line of actual control…” In July 1954, Nehru had issued a directive that “all our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. The new maps should also be sent to our embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges, etc”. It is this map that was officially used that formed the basis of dealings with China, eventually leading to the 1962 War’ (Indian Express, June 6, 2020, Line of Actual Control: Where it is located and where India and China differ).

India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000km.

The LAC was discussed during Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where Indian PM P. V. Narasimha Rao and Premier Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquility at the LAC. India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993.

The reference to the LAC was unqualified to make it clear that it was not referring to the LAC of 1959 or 1962 but to the LAC at the time when the agreement was signed.

India’s disdain of the LOC

India’s mindset on the LOC should change. The problem is Nehru never cared a fig for the disputed state’s constituent assembly, Indian parliament or the UN. This truth is interspersed in Avtar Singh Bhasin’s 10-volume documentary study (2012) of India-Pakistan Relations 1947-2007. It contains 3,649 official documents which gave new perspectives to Nehru’s state of mind.

In his 2018 book (published after six years of his earlier work), India, Pakistan: Neighbours at Odds (Bloomsbury India, New Delhi, 2018), Bhasin discusses Nehru’s perfidy on Kashmir.

LoC peace should lead to Kashmir solution

The tentative solutions include (a) status quo (division of Kashmir along the present Line of Control with or without some local adjustments to facilitate the local population, (b) complete or partial independence (creation of independent Muslim-majority tehsils of Rajauri, Poonch and Uri, with Hindu-majority areas merged in India), (c) a plebiscite to be held in five to 10 years after putting Kashmir under UN trusteeship (Trieste-like solution), (d) joint control, (e) an Indus-basin-related solution, (f) an Andorra island (g) Aland island-like solution and (h) permutations and combinations of the aforementioned options.

Another option is for Pakistan and India to grant independence to disputed areas under their control and let Kashmir emerge as a neutral country. An independent Kashmir, as a neutral country, was the favourite choice of Sheikh Abdullah. From the early 1950s “Sheikh Abdullah supported ‘safeguarding of autonomy’ to the fullest possible extent” (Report of the State Autonomy Committee, Jammu, p. 41).

Abdullah irked Nehru so much that he had to put him behind the bars. Bhabani Sen Gupta and Prem Shankar Jha assert that “if New Delhi sincerely wishes to break the deadlock in Kashmir, it has no other alternative except to accept and implement what is being termed as an ‘Autonomy Plus, Independence Minus’ formula, or to grant autonomy to the state to the point where it is indistinguishable from independence”. (Shri Prakash and Ghulam Mohammad Shah (ed.), Towards understanding the Kashmir crisis, p.226).

Sans sincerity and the will to implement, the only Kashmir solution is divine intervention or the unthinkable, nuclear Armageddon.

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New Wars



Twentieth century was a century of great events and developments in every part of human life. The century is marked by the deadliest wars, deadliest weapons and unprecedented interconnectedness. The destructive power of A-bombs and the interconnectedness that transformed world into a global village infused traditional wisdom of conflict resolution with great confusions. New conflicts demanded new solutions. Globalization transformed the traditional theatre of conflict; war.

 War in twenty first century has acquired a whole new character. State which was once the almighty Leviathan has lost its monopoly over violence, its erosion of monopoly over violence from globalization transformed the character of war. Wars of today are not fought between states rather there is network of state and non-state actors which includes mercenaries, private security companies, hired thugs etc. Globalization has unleashed a plethora of problems by undermining state sovereignty. Globalization which was supposed to encourage cosmopolitan politics and cooperation ended up creating more divisions.

Mary Kaldore, professor at London School of Economics, is among the scholars who have acknowledged the impact of globalization on the character of war. In her book, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, she highlights this change in character of war.  Highlighting the difference she wrote that new wars are different from old wars because of who fight these wars, for what reason these wars are fought, how these wars are financed and the way these wars are fought. Old wars were fought by states, financed by states, were waged for ideological purposes and battles were the defining character. However, in new wars; actors are networks of state and non-state actors, which are to a greater extent privately financed and direct confrontation between opposite forces is rare. Kaldor is of the view that this change in character of war is caused by globalization. Kaldor is of the view that this transformation is a consequence of globalization and disintegration of state.

 Along with globalization, clash of symmetrical opponents can destroy the world. Advent of nuclear weapons has changed the traditional military logic. In fact, any war according to old military logic is simply not beneficial anymore. War between nuclear powers will leave neither party at benefit. Since the costs of such victory cancel the benefits it holds. Avoiding direct war serves the political interest better than waging one. This change in military logic is evident from the change in tactics of wars of today. Today’s wars are fought through Guerilla and counter insurgency tactics are the tactics. Majority of the conflicts involves one state and one or more than one non-state actor. These are battles between wolves and shepherds where wolves attack the flock while shepherds try to save the sheep.

However, it is not the change in military logic and innovation of new types of weapons that have transformed the character of war. Rather transformation in politics is the defining element of this change. Politics of ‘new wars’ is Identity politics which is very different from politics of old wars.  Old wars were largely driven by ideological politics whereas new wars are driven entirely by identity politics. In words of Professor Kaldor, “identity politics is about right to power in the name of a specific group whereas ideological politics is about winning power in order to carry out a particular ideological programme”. Globalization prompted groups to securitize their identity. War for these actors is either a mean for keeping their identity or claiming in lands in the name of that identity.

 Another dimension of problems caused by globalization for the concept of war is proliferation of capitalism. The ideas of capitalism and free market motivated such actors who saw potential for profit in war. These actors established private security firms and were up for grab for the highest bidder. Companies like Titan and Blackwater are profit-maximizing companies whose only motivation is the accumulation of wealth. These institutions induced the concept of war with further complexities and legitimacy of violence further degenerated. These developments underline the need for a new conceptualization of war. To address these complexities and set the basis for future exploration, Kaldor defines war as a “mutual enterprise” rather than a “contest of wills”. The reason illustrated by Kaldor is that the latter makes the elimination of enemy the ultimate objective of war whereas former suggests that both sides are interested “in the enterprise of war rather than winning and losing for both political and economic ends”. Although it is very difficult to discern what means one employs for what ends, the protracted conflicts all around the world and the industry which these wars fuel paints a different picture a picture very close to the concept of war as mutual enterprise rather than a contest of wills.

War in nuclear age, where symmetry in capabilities will, eventually, lead to MAD, cannot have the same character it once had. Mankind frightened by the destructiveness of these weapons and compelled by their natural instinct to clash is trying to fight the new wars with new weapons according to old principles. This is commendable but not practical as this undermines the capabilities of new weapons by considering them just another weapon of war. Concepts of limited war show the appreciation of this reality. There political, technological and economical developments highlight the need for evaluation of old ideas and encourage the need for new ideas. As the aphorism goes “modern problems require modern solutions”, wars of today are modern and they require modern solutions as the traditional ones are not adequate enough.

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